Journey into the past: using cryogenically stored samples to reconstruct the invasion history of the quagga mussel (Dreissena rostriformis) in German river systems

2014, Journals

Paulus, Martin; Teubner, Diana; Hochkirch, Axel; Veith, Michael
J Biological Invasions (2014), online 02 April 2014


Knowledge about the spatial-temporal dynamics of biological invasions often remains incomplete, because precise information about the invaders' arrival dates is rare. This applies to the quagga mussel, which has become one of the most successful invasive species in Western European freshwaters. We here used cryogenically stored Dreissena samples from the German Environmental Specimen Bank to reconstruct the colonization history of the quagga mussel in German river systems. Our retrospective genetic analysis significantly improved upon previous findings of when the quagga mussel arrived in Germany and can be used as chronological landmarks to reconstruct its range expansion. The discovery of Dreissena rostriformis in 2004 in the Rhine River near Koblenz presented the first record of this species not only in Germany, but also in Western Europe. Our results show that the quagga mussel had already invaded not only large parts of the Rhine and the Danube, but also the Elbe River. This demonstrates the value of cryobanked biological samples for the retrospective analysis of biological 'pollution' through alien invasive species.